The year of firsts

A year ago yesterday my brother went to heaven. Somehow we made it through what so many refer to “the year of firsts.” Each first without him was hard, Thanksgiving and Christmas especially. But so was 4th of July, Easter, his birthday, my birthday, mother’s day, father’s day. I had been with him for almost all of those the year before. And we celebrated most of those days together for over 30 years in a row.

So the holidays and special days were hard without him, but so were random Tuesdays, Saturdays, and any old day that I thought of him and wished he was still here, which was most days in the past year. I remember the first day I didn’t think of my brother until it was almost the end of the day and I was like, “Oh my gosh, it happened, a day came where I didn’t think of him” and I burst into tears. But then I realized, oh, I guess today is not that day because I am thinking of how I didn’t think of him. Grief is weird.

I was trying to wrap my head around the fact that he has been gone for a whole year. I told my mom that it seems like yesterday that he was still here. Mom gently pointed out that we had 33 years with him, and only one without, so it seems natural to remember all the time with him instead.

And honestly? I prefer it that way. I like that I can look back on memories and remember him full of life, funny, telling stories, making people laugh. Or on holidays I can remember different things we did together. Mother’s day was a tough one this year because it was the last holiday before he died.

My mom decided to call this mother’s day simply, “Sunday” and that made it a lot easier to handle. We got together to tell stories, laugh and cry a little bit.

My favorite Mother’s day memory was when Justin and I were teenagers. My mom is and was a very good mom to us. And she almost never swore in front of us, so when she did, it was memorable. Our parents divorce was fresh and emotions were high. The custody rules were for us to visit my dad every other weekend. It so happened that one fell on Mother’s day weekend. My mom was expressing her frustration saying, “He got you on Christmas Eve, (and some other holiday I’ve since forgotten)… and now he gets you on Mother’s F@%#ING Day?!” My brother and I stood there in stunned silence. It was clearly a rhetorical question.

And that Mother’s Day, my brother decided to make a joke out of the awkward moment. We made mom cards that year saying, “Happy Mother’s F@%#ing Day” that morphed into “Mother’s King Day” over the years, complete with us drawing tiny crowns in the cards.

This story still makes me smile years later and I know my brother’s creativity made mom grin too. I’ll have to remember this on next year’s mother’s day.

I’m so thankful to have had him as my brother. He was a very good one that could always make me laugh, even on command. Last night I told Andy a dumb joke that Justin used to tell that still makes me smile- probably because I can hear his voice doing a goofy accent with it in my head.

What’s brown, and sounds like a bell?



Love you, Gus.


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